Private John Robert Langston
Company B (the “Gates Guards”), 5th Regiment N.C. State Troops
According to the 1860 Federal census only 1005 white men of military age (15 to 49) resided in Gates County. Nevertheless, by early June 1861 the county had provided two companies (the “Gates Guards” and the “Gates Minute Men”), numbering more than 230 men. Unlike most early war companies, whose terms were usually for twelve months, both Gates commands were raised as state troops, with a commitment three years or the duration of the war. Both the “Guards” and the “Minute Men” were assigned to the 5th Regiment N.C. State Troops, as Companies B and H, respectively.
John Robert Langston (born ca. 1841) resided with his parents and five younger siblings in the Reynoldson District of Gates County. His father, Thomas B. Langston was a prosperous farmer who owned eight slaves, and John was a student at nearby Reynoldson Institute, a private school founded in 1856.
On June 12, 1861, John enlisted in a private in the “Gates Guards.” Muster rolls are extant from the date of John’s enlistment through April 1862, and he was always present, except for a brief hospitalization for pneumonia in January 1862.
The 5th North Carolina participated in the Battle of Williamsburg, May 5, 1862, a rear guard action that covered the withdrawal of General Joseph Johnston’s army up the Virginia Peninsula toward Richmond. In the bloodiest action of the war to that date involving Tar Heel troops, the 5th North Carolina suffered more than sixty percent casualties. The regiment numbered about 420 men on the day of battle, and lost 87 men or killed or mortally wounded in action, 43 wounded in action, and 120 captured (62 of whom were also wounded). Deaths among the two Gates County companies amounted to twenty-three men, one of whom was Private John R. Langston.
Langston is depicted with a Colt M1849 pocket revolver and a long bowie knife. The image is notable for the letters “G G” on Langston’s light-colored kepi, to denote his company name.
Image: Mrs. Edith Seiling.
1860 U. S. Census, Reynoldson District, Gates County, North Carolina, population schedule, page 5, dwelling 564, family 520, Thomas B. Langston household; 1860 U.S. Census, Reynoldston District, Gates County, North Carolina slave schedule, page 53, Thomas B. Langston, slave owner; Manarin et. al., North Carolina Troops 4:144, 151; Mast, “North Carolina Casualties”; Mast, State Troops and Volunteers, 1:310; service record files of John R. Langston, 5th Regiment N.C. State Troops, Compiled Service Records of Confederate Soldiers from the State of North Carolina (M270), RG109, NA.